How a children's book about a mouse is keeping me motivated in quarantine

When I was a teenager, I worked at the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop in New Haven, Connecticut — which, as far as teenage work went, was pretty formative and fantastic. While the campus is based in Eli Whitney's original factory, the museum itself is more of an experimental learning workshop that uses alternative teaching methods to celebrate and explore the intersections of engineering, design, and innovation. And yes, that man above was my boss, who hopes to enjoy his well-deserved retirement soon, depending on how this pandemic plays out.

On the weekends, we'd host birthday parties at the museum for younger kids, where they'd get to do some hands-on woodworking projects that also introduced them to simple machines or electricity (like a single Christmas light and a battery; we weren't monsters). We had a series of projects loosely based on the books of Leo Lionni, including one very simple project for 5-year olds that was based on the story of Frederick the Mouse. The basic idea of the story is that all the other mice accuse Frederick of being lazy while the rest of them are busy getting ready for the winter. They're all gathering wood and straw and nuts and stone so they can hide away in comfort when it gets cold out — and Frederick just sits there, insisting that he, too, is collecting things like colors and stories and sounds.

This, understandably, irritates all the other hard-working mice. But when the winter finally comes, and they're all trapped in the cave together, going out of their little mouse minds, that's when Frederick finally pulls his weight. Read the rest